Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

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Mike Gebert

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Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 12:03 pm

Well, Ottawa, Kansas is a little further from Kansas City than just outside... it's about 20 min. south of Lawrence, home to KU, which is still not quite a suburb of Kansas City, as much as the megaplex keeps sprawling to it. Anyway, I know this because I spent a summer in Ottawa (I needed a summer job and a friend had one for me, so we rented a place for 3 months), but... I remember the theater, right on Main Street, but I can't remember if we ever saw anything there...

Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world, located just outside of Kansas City

OTTAWA, Kan. — The Plaza Cinema has been showing films since 1907.

For years, it’s held the title of America’s Oldest Cinema, but owner Peach Madl made it her mission to prove it was indeed the oldest in the world.

After years of collecting evidence — everything from court documents to photographs and building permits — she finally received the official certificate from Guinness World Records.

The cinema is the oldest purpose-built cinema in operation. It’s been open for nearly 111 years.

Madl proudly displays the certificate in the corner of the lobby. The document is surrounded by framed evidence she used to prove her case.

"The Plaza Cinema has had several names. It started as the Bijou and then the Yale and then the Crystal Theatre,” said Madl.

The two-screen theatre has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Today one screen is used for feature films and the other screen is used for older films and as part of a tour of the cinema’s history.

Behind the screens, Madl created a movie memorabilia museum.

Throughout the years she’s collected scripts, props and costume pieces from popular films.

Madl said she’s very proud of the new title, and she hopes it will attract more people to Ottawa.

“We’re so excited! I think it’s a great way for us to maybe have a little economic driver for our downtown,” she said.

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/ka ... ansas-city
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 1:19 pm

Hmmm, Guinness gave the a very similar award to the State Theatre in Iowa, according to the documentary Saving Brinton, opening May 16. From the press notes:

With a population that is essentially the same in 2017 as in 1897, Washington remains a vibrant community where history and tradition are alive and well. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the State Theatre,
the very building where Frank turned on the projector lights so long ago still serves as the local movie palace, earning it the Guinness World Record title of “The World’s Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater.”
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 1:33 pm

I thought it was the Biograph in London? Perhaps they all started round about the same time?
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 2:10 pm

About 20 miles from me in Spencer, WV is the Robey Theater which has only been continuously showing films since 1908. Though in the early days the Robey alternated films and vaudeville acts. They have recently converted to digital but the new digital projector is housed in a metal projection room, a holdover from the nitrate days.

Many film companies have acknowledged the Robey's age and sometimes the Robey debuts major films ahead off their official release. The Spiderman films debuted at the Robey a week before their official release dates.

Spencer, WV had a population of 5,000 in the 1920's and the Robey theater had an eight piece band with a "sound effects technician."

One neat tradition of the Robey is that the Robey sells popcorn through a window to sidewalk traffic which is still a big hit.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 2:50 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:Hmmm, Guinness gave the a very similar award to the State Theatre in Iowa, according to the documentary Saving Brinton, opening May 16. From the press notes:

With a population that is essentially the same in 2017 as in 1897, Washington remains a vibrant community where history and tradition are alive and well. Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the State Theatre,
the very building where Frank turned on the projector lights so long ago still serves as the local movie palace, earning it the Guinness World Record title of “The World’s Oldest Continuously Operating Movie Theater.”


This was not built as a movie theater.

Bob
New and vigorous impulses seem to me to be at work in it,[the cinema] and doubtless before long it will drop all slavish copying of the stage and strike out along fresh paths. -- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 3:47 pm

The key word here is "purpose-built."

True, the State Theatre in Washington, IA has been continuously showing movies since 1897, longer than any theater in the world, but was not originally built for that purpose. It opened as the Graham Opera House in 1893, before anybody had even heard of a movie theater. It was renamed the State Theatre in 1931. (Incidentally, its picture on the Guinness World Records website shows the building with its original name.)

The Plaza Cinema in Ottawa, KS was purposely built as a movie theater named The Bijou in 1907, and has undergone several name changes since then, becoming the Plaza Cinema in 1935, but has always been maintained as a movie theater and has continuously shown movies for 111 years.

It should also be noted that both theaters were closed for short periods of time. The Plaza was closed for "a few years during the Great Depression," and the State Theatre was closed after a fire in 2010, but was restored and reopened in 2014.

Here are the links for both theaters on the Guinness World Records website:

The State Theatre in Washington, IA

The Plaza Cinema in Ottawa, KS
Last edited by CoffeeDan on Wed Mar 21, 2018 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 3:51 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:The two-screen theatre has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Today one screen is used for feature films and the other screen is used for older films and as part of a tour of the cinema’s history.


It sure has! Completely new facade, at any rate.

Image

Pretty cool that if you visit it on Google Maps, the buildings on either side of it remain unchanged.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostWed Mar 21, 2018 4:43 pm

And if you twirl around the pizza place is still there. Would have killed for the Mexican one, though.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 1:24 am

The Biograph in London closed many years ago and was then demolished.
My local,the Phoenix East Finchley was built in 1910 and has been open continuously.It is listed Grade 11.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 12:04 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:And if you twirl around the pizza place is still there. Would have killed for the Mexican one, though.

I bet there's a print of LAM for sale at the antique store next door.

wingate wrote:The Biograph in London closed many years ago and was then demolished.
My local,the Phoenix East Finchley was built in 1910 and has been open continuously.It is listed Grade 11.

I'm guessing it's often frequented by Bluebottle and the East Finchley Boy Scouts?
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 3:49 pm

Peter Sellers lived about a mile up the road and Spike Milligan lived in Finchley for many years.So it is a good bet that they would have seen films there when it was called the Rex.It has an original thirties art deco interior.
just a couple of miles we have the Everyman ex Odeon Muswell Hill.It is Grade 11* listed.It is one of the few original Odeon cinemas left.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 6:52 pm

I'm already planning to visit The Plaza on my next trip to the Kansas Silent Film Festival next year.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 9:00 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Well, Ottawa, Kansas is a little further from Kansas City than just outside... it's about 20 min. south of Lawrence, home to KU, which is still not quite a suburb of Kansas City, as much as the megaplex keeps sprawling to it. Anyway, I know this because I spent a summer in Ottawa (I needed a summer job and a friend had one for me, so we rented a place for 3 months), but... I remember the theater, right on Main Street, but I can't remember if we ever saw anything there...

Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world, located just outside of Kansas City

OTTAWA, Kan. — The Plaza Cinema has been showing films since 1907.

For years, it’s held the title of America’s Oldest Cinema, but owner Peach Madl made it her mission to prove it was indeed the oldest in the world.

After years of collecting evidence — everything from court documents to photographs and building permits — she finally received the official certificate from Guinness World Records.

The cinema is the oldest purpose-built cinema in operation. It’s been open for nearly 111 years.

Madl proudly displays the certificate in the corner of the lobby. The document is surrounded by framed evidence she used to prove her case.

"The Plaza Cinema has had several names. It started as the Bijou and then the Yale and then the Crystal Theatre,” said Madl.

The two-screen theatre has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Today one screen is used for feature films and the other screen is used for older films and as part of a tour of the cinema’s history.

Behind the screens, Madl created a movie memorabilia museum.

Throughout the years she’s collected scripts, props and costume pieces from popular films.

Madl said she’s very proud of the new title, and she hopes it will attract more people to Ottawa.

“We’re so excited! I think it’s a great way for us to maybe have a little economic driver for our downtown,” she said.

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/ka ... ansas-city" target="_blank

That's awesome. PICS?
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostThu Mar 22, 2018 9:28 pm

The ones S.W.A.C posted are from the article. You can see more here:

http://plazacinemaottawa.com
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostFri Mar 23, 2018 10:36 am

Los Angeles has the Cameo Theater, but it's an upstart since it's only 108 years old.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostFri Mar 23, 2018 11:37 am

There is a modern photo on the Cinema Treasures page for this theater.
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Re: Kansas movie theater is oldest in the world

PostFri Mar 23, 2018 3:21 pm

wingate wrote:Peter Sellers lived about a mile up the road and Spike Milligan lived in Finchley for many years.So it is a good bet that they would have seen films there when it was called the Rex.It has an original thirties art deco interior.
just a couple of miles we have the Everyman ex Odeon Muswell Hill.It is Grade 11* listed.It is one of the few original Odeon cinemas left.

I love that two of my favourite obsessions, the Goons (East Finchley) and the Kinks (Muswell Hill) basically came from the same adjacent neighbourhoods.
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